Yes, you read that right. Wearing socks is the new popping your collar, the new French-tucking your shirt, the new mismatching your earrings. It is the style detail that instantly marks you out as one of the cool kids.
Socks used to be the opposite of fashionable. By the very suggestion that you had got dressed with a view to practicality or comfort rather than aesthetics, they had the power to kill a look. High-heeled strappy sandals were to be endured bare-legged – never mind that it felt like wearing cheese wire. Trainer-liner socks, sitting invisibly within your shoes, were invented so that no one would know you were wearing them.
But in 2022, wearing socks makes your look more fashion, not less fashion. On the catwalk at Balenciaga and Gucci, brightly coloured sports socks are included in much the way that avant garde hats were in 1990s fashion shows, as a kind of visual exclamation mark.
Bright socks have always been a distinctive feature of sportswear, and particularly of the beautiful game. And now that Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish are star signings not just for their clubs, but for Burberry and Gucci respectively, the football aesthetic has style currency. Looking like a player now makes you look like, well, a player.
So while school-run mums are mostly wearing trainer socks with public-facing athleisure for a post-drop-off coffee, their personal trainers have started emphasising their sport-seriousness by wearing thick sport socks pulled up to mid-calf. And the It girls are now following suit. The key accessory for Hailey Bieber or Bella Hadid running the gauntlet of paparazzi en route to spin class is not a protein shake, but a pair of ribbed socks worn oh-so-casually over a legging. Mark my words: the days of the trainer liner are numbered.
Like pretty much everything that has happened in fashion recently, the Renais-socks is a love child of the two lifestyle shifts of our age: the elevation of sport to a glamorous level of culture; and the needle-shift towards comfort that began with hygge before being granted a royal warrant by lockdown. The days of suffering for fashion are long gone already. Being comfortable is aspirational now.
Rising hemlines are also driving the revival. A calf-length skirt worn with socks looks cluttered, with a little too much going on in the ankle area. Now that skirts are getting shorter, wearing them with socks – as seen on the Miu Miu catwalk, spiritual home of the mini-revival – feels like a modern way to do a mini.
But the fashionable sock should not be confused with the novelty sock. Homer socks are not included in the Renais-socks. Your sockdrobe (yes, it’s a thing) should include ribbed sports socks to wear with trainers, either with leggings (tucked into the socks) or with jeans (do not tuck these into the socks). It should include fine, ribbed socks in neutral colours for wearing with trousers and loafers, and bright ones for wearing with heels. A strong colour will help make it clear that you are wearing socks as an alpha style choice.
If, like me, you like the kind of chunky flatbed sandals that look more modern than the leather gladiator style but find they tend to rub and blister the top of the foot, a thick, textured cotton sock is a game changer. Style hacks do not get easier – or easier to wear – than this.
Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson; model: Benn Hebbard at Body London